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Br J Nutr. 2002 Jan;87 Suppl 1:S31-48.

Fatty acids and lymphocyte functions.

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  • 1Institute of Human Nutrition, University of Southampton, UK. pcc@soton.ac.uk

Abstract

The immune system acts to protect the host against pathogenic invaders. However, components of the immune system can become dysregulated such that their activities are directed against host tissues, so causing damage. Lymphocytes are involved in both the beneficial and detrimental effects of the immune system. Both the level of fat and the types of fatty acid present in the diet can affect lymphocyte functions. The fatty acid composition of lymphocytes, and other immune cells, is altered according to the fatty acid composition of the diet and this alters the capacity of those cells to produce eicosanoids, such as prostaglandin E2, which are involved in immunoregulation. A high fat diet can impair lymphocyte function. Cell culture and animal feeding studies indicate that oleic, linoleic, conjugated linoleic, gamma-linolenic, dihomo-gamma-linolenic, arachidonic, alpha-linolenic, eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids can all influence lymphocyte proliferation, the production of cytokines by lymphocytes, and natural killer cell activity. High intakes of some of these fatty acids are necessary to induce these effects. Among these fatty acids the long chain n-3 fatty acids, especially eicosapentaenoic acid, appear to be the most potent when included in the human diet. Although not all studies agree, it appears that fish oil, which contains eicosapentaenoic acid, down regulates the T-helper 1-type response which is associated with chronic inflammatory disease. There is evidence for beneficial effects of fish oil in such diseases; this evidence is strongest for rheumatoid arthritis. Since n-3 fatty acids also antagonise the production of inflammatory eicosanoid mediators from arachidonic acid, there is potential for benefit in asthma and related diseases. Recent evidence indicates that fish oil may be of benefit in some asthmatics but not others.

PMID:
11895154
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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